My eight-year-old son has embarked on his new journey into the gifted “spectrum” program in our school district. At first, he was very reluctant. He has several good friends who live within walking distance of our home who he liked to play with at school. Leaving those buddies behind was a little hard to face. “I don’t think I want to go to gifted school,” he said. Several readers urged me to have him attend anyway, because of the marvelous educational opportunity he had been given. Finally, somewhat hesitantly, he determined to give it a try.
One drawback has been transporting him to and from a school which is quite a bit farther from our home. (In our district, they don’t bus the gifted kids.) This is especially tricky when I have another child attending our local elementary which starts at exactly the same time. Fortunately we have great neighbors who agreed to drive my daughter to school each day so that I could make the longer trip with my son. It still presents a problem during parent teacher conferences and other events which tend to be scheduled on the same evening. Try as I might, I can’t be in two places at once.
So what is the difference, thus far, between a “gifted” or spectrum program and a typical elementary school class? My son has more homework, and more accountability for it. Assignments are tracked with an elaborate money system, where the children earn pretend “dollars” for tasks completed, and lose them for incompletes. At certain points in the school year, they are able to purchase items with money earned. Obviously the more “money” the child has earned, the more items (or better ones) available to purchase. Also, the curriculum is more challenging. These third graders must have their times tables entirely memorized prior to beginning the program. They work on math at an accelerated pace. Currently, my son is learning tidbits of Japanese, Spanish, and French. The class reads and writes at a level several grades higher than their own. Parents of children in the spectrum program are expected to give at least two hours of weekly volunteer service.
Am I glad my son made the switch? Yes. At first I was concerned about the work load, but as time has passed I’ve noticed a change in him. The rigorous, varied curriculum is more stimulating, and he seems eager to do his work without being asked. He excitedly talks about current class projects and is motivated to be responsible. Last year, he seemed to be forgetful, bored, and needed continual prodding to stay on task. He was unchallenged. Today he is a self-starter, and looks forward to his school experiences.
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